My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am so pleased with this uncompleted last novel of Jane Austen’s that was finished by “another lady”. It tells the story of Charlotte Heywood who is visiting friends in a seaside town called Sanditon. Charlotte meets all the respectable society of Sanditon, and spends most of her time observing their characters and deciding if she should laugh at them, pity them, befriend them, or scorn them. She herself is very unassuming and sensible, but when the charming Mr. Sidney Parker comes on the scene, her self-possession begins to slip and Charlotte finds herself wrapped up in intrigue, deceit, and gossip of the worst kind.
I couldn’t even tell where Jane Austen’s original work left off and Marie Dobbs writing began! I’m usually very skeptical about other authors trying to recreate or imitate someone else’s work, but wow! She perfectly captures the sweet laughing mockery of Austen’s writing. Austen made fun of everybody with little biting remarks, but also forgave them their faults in the next sentence. This writing style, the wording, the dialogue, and even the descriptions are perfectly blended together throughout the book in Austen’s own way. I could have sworn she wrote the whole thing! (And I am very picky and critical about all things Austen, let me tell you.)
All the characters are exactly what I would expect from an Austen novel; perfectly delightful and complex and interesting! The plot follows just the sort of outline that Austen always follows in her novels, right down to the minor catastrophe near the end which pushes the characters to take action and come together.
I am completely delighted with the entire book! I only have one complaint: There were too many characters to keep track of. This is a pet peeve of mine. Some of them were necessary, yes; but many of them could have been disposed of, and I think it would have made for a clearer story.